On October 16, 2003, Aaron “F*&^%ng” Boone added to the Boston lore by hitting a walk-off, game-winning, series-ending homerun in the bottom of the 11th inning, sending the Yankees to the World Series and the Red Sox home without a championship for the 85th consecutive year.
The Boston faithful had reason for hope in the 8th inning that night, up 5-2 with but five outs to go. As a lifelong Red Sox fan, I have no need to relive (or write about) what transpired next, it being forever seared into our brains by one of the worst managerial decisions in the history of the game. Suffice it to say, Red Sox fan’s hearts were ripped out, yet again.
In 2004, the script seemed to be re-written. The Red Sox wiped the slate clean, hired a new manager, and brought themselves into the ALCS with more than just a hope that “this is the year”. And then the Yankees stepped on the field. Before you could blink an eye, the Yankees were up three games to none, and a long, cold, dreary winter in the Northeast was again on the horizon.
As a lifelong Red Sox fan, I have much need to relive (and write about) what transpired next, it being forever seared into our brains by the greatest comeback in the history of the sport. The Red Sox looked into the abyss; there was nothing staring back; at that moment, they found their character; and that is what kept them out of the abyss. On the shoulders of David Ortiz, the Red Sox rode to victory after victory after victory, ultimately vanquishing the Yankees in Game 7. The BoSox kept that momentum and swept the Cardinals to win their first world championship in 86 years. Their demons were exorcised on a cold, Fall night in St. Louis.
So why am I writing about the 2004 Red Sox in the middle of the 2016 season? Fair question. The answer (hopefully) will become clear in a moment.
Is it becoming any clearer?
The City of Cleveland has had its share of heartache and heartbreak. Probably a whole lot more than their fair share. The links listed above represent nightmares – literal and figurative – for people of Northeast Ohio. They represent opportunities squandered and seasons wasted. They represent the downward turn in the Rust Belt and lakes on fire. They represent the DNA in multiple generations who have known nothing but loss – and pain. It has been 52 years since the City of Cleveland has sniffed the sweet smell of success; tasted the sweet wine of winning; drank the sweet champagne of championship. Clevelanders have grown weak not having to lift trophies over their heads; and have filled landfills with unused ticker tape.
But all of that was supposed to change with “The Letter”. After the 2014 season, the Cavaliers decided that “this will be the year”. They brought in a new coach and lured back the hometown hero – and this time he brought with him championship experience. Just as the Red Sox hired a new manager and brought in an ace with championship experience for 2004, their script was due for a rewrite.
The Cavaliers had a great season and brought themselves to the Finals. But two of their three best players got hurt, they ran into the buzzsaw that was the Golden State Warriors, and their championship hopes were thwarted for yet another year. Cleveland fell into another malaise. Countless stories were written. Documentaries were made.
But Cleveland is a resilient town, and the Cavs are a resilient team. They battled a sluggish start, fired their “bad-fit” (read: didn’t see eye-to-eye with LeBron) coach, and slowly rounded themselves into a championship-caliber team. And, just like the 2004 Red Sox, they brought themselves all the way back to the championship.
And just like the 2004 Red Sox, facing the same opponent, they looked overmatched and outclassed. And just like the 2004 Red Sox, they found themselves on the brink of elimination in the most ignominious and embarrassing of ways. And just like the 2004 Red Sox, in order to win, in order to hoist a trophy, in order to exorcise their demons, they would have to do something that no other team in the history of the sport had ever done. The Chinese proverb states: Go straight for the heart of danger, for there you will find safety. These teams live in that danger. This is not just a way for these franchises, this is the only way.
So, for those reasons; because the sports gods work in strange and (un)predictable ways; because momentum is a fickle bitch and cannot be denied; because winning on your opponent’s turf makes the victory that much sweeter (just ask Steph Curry); because there simply cannot be any other outcome; the Cavaliers will win tonight.
Or, Steph will do Steph things. Klay will do Klay things. Draymond will stop doing Draymond things, and the Dubs will repeat. What the hell do I know?
For my money, take the 4.5, take the Cavs on the money line, and be prepared for the Cuyahoga to catch fire again. Someone wake up Barry Goldwater, the City of Cleveland is ready to party like it’s 1964!